The Cornerstone Academy
Altra relies on many arms of its credit union to welcome and educate new hires. The process starts with its Cornerstone Academy program, held every two weeks from Monday through Thursday.
For 90 minutes on day one, a member of the senior management team delivers a presentation covering subjects such as Altra’s history, service standards, and belief in the importance of financial literacy.
Then a management team member takes the group out to lunch and explains the importance of each employee’s role in the context of the organization’s success.
During the final two days, experts from each department offer an overview of Altra’s products and services—partly to educate, and partly to encourage the new employees to become active, loyal members.
They also learn about service strategies through CUNA’s Creating Member Loyalty™ program, and attend lunch with their direct manager.
Initially, experienced staff struggled to understand why they should participate in the onboarding process, Horstman says. But she told them that new employees want to hear from the subject matter experts who show passion for their jobs, and have a deep understanding of the day-to-day requirements of their positions.
The onboarding process continues through peer mentors who guide the new employees. And the learning and development department conducts face-to-face assessments at three and six months.
Also, 90 days after employees begin working at the credit union, CEO Jack Peplinski invites them to lunch. Peplinski emphasizes key points about the credit union, but much of the conversation is free-flowing.
New employees face one requirement: They must come armed with a question for Peplinski about Altra.
“He really has a great dialogue with them,” says Horstman, who facilitates the lunch meetings.
The Cornerstone Academy’s immersive nature works particularly well for Altra because its workforce is so spread out. That’s a legacy of its founding as Trane Employees Federal Credit Union, serving workers at the heating and air conditioning manufacturer.
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The training creates a consistent approach between the roughly 60 employees dispersed nationally and those who work at the credit union’s headquarters or nearby in the Mississippi River valley of Wisconsin and Minnesota. Altra also uses video conferencing to train employees at remote locations.
New employees notice they’re receiving attention from the top to the bottom of the organization, Horstman says. “They learn this isn’t just a job—it’s a family, and we care about each other.”
Small investment, huge payback
To develop or expand an onboarding program requires commitment, but it doesn’t need to cost much money or take a lot of time, SESLOC Federal’s White says.
“It just takes planning,” Purtell notes. “You need to figure out what you’re willing to do and who can do it, and put a process in place.”
HR specialists refer to the five Cs of onboarding:
None of those items come with a sizable price tag, SESLOC Federal’s White says.
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The biggest challenge, especially for small credit unions, is time: finding time to create and implement a plan, and allowing time for the new employee to learn about the big picture before tackling job-specific training.
Both sacrifices will pay dividends down the road, according to Purtell.
“Small credit unions can invest small resources for a huge payback,” she says.
Prioritize the elements of the program you want to create, and introduce them sequentially, Horstman advises. “When you can say, ‘Hey, we did this!’ you have more validity and credibility to pursue additional ideas.”
CUNA Councils: cunacouncils.org